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How to Get Started

There are several different ways to develop a JPC project. Some students begin by talking with faculty members, others find ideas through their service projects, and still others are inspired by their courses. There is no one way to develop a project, but there are some key elements every JPC project development process: choose a topic, choose a faculty advisor, engage a community partner, enroll in topic-related courses, and attend informational workshops.

The diagram below shows how these components inter-connect throughout the project development process. There is no defined sequence of steps you must follow to create a project. For example, you may find a JPC topic while taking a course. Or, if you already have a JPC project idea, then you may need to take additional courses to further your knowledge in the topic area. A faculty advisor may suggest a community organization or you may already have your own community connection. In all cases, a successful JPC project incorporates all of the elements represented below.

Getting Started Choose a Topic Find a Community Partner Choose a Faculty Advisor Attend Courses Attend Workshops

Choose a TOPIC

  • Identify a social issue you want to address and that fits the criteria of the JPC program goals (review the JPC Handbook). Research what other work has been done to address the issue. Areas of interest for community engagement projects often come from everyday experiences. For example, you may observe an interesting phenomenon, read about a social problem in a newspaper, or become more curious about a topic from one of your courses. Your JPC project topic may develop from volunteering with a community agency through Madison House, working with a faith-based organization, or participating in a program like the Young Women Leaders Program. You do not need to have previous experience with the topic, but your application will be stronger if you and others on your project team have worked with a similar subject.

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Find a COMMUNITY PARTNER

  • Most JPC projects evolve from existing contacts you, your teammates or your faculty advisor have with the community. These connections are often formed through courses, service projects, or through student CIO/fraternity and sorority volunteer work. Madison House also has dozens of local community agencies with whom they have built up partnerships over four decades. Talk to your parents, neighbors, and friends about organizations that have worked with successfully in the past.

  • It is important to give yourself and your community partner enough time (several months) to discuss with them the kinds of research-service projects they may need done. Expect that they may not be familiar with community "research" or may be suspicious of "research" altogether. However, this hesitation can be overcome by brainstorming together what problems the organization is facing and discussing ways your JPC project might help address those issues.

  • To start looking for partners or organizations to work with by checking:

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Engage a faculty ADVISOR

  • Your faculty advisor should have expertise or at least familiarity with your topic area. It can be helpful to search for a faculty advisor and a community partner at the same time as one may help identify the other. If you are considering an international project, you want to find two advisors: one who has expertise in the country and culture and another who has expertise in your research area.

  • Coordinating with faculty, like connecting with a community organization, requires time, and some good web research and networking. You can start by looking at the classes you and your potential JPC teammates have taken and identifying a short list of faculty members who may have some expertise in your content area, or if you're planning to conduct a project abroad, in the country of interest. E mail the faculty members and ask to meet with them to discuss your plans. This should be done several months prior to applying to the JPC program.

  • Faculty members who have already advised JPC teams can be excellent resources--even just as general JPC project consultants. They are listed on the "project listings" JPC webpage and the link to the previous years’ projects is at the very bottom. You can also consult the course catalog/SIS and searching under the subject area of your potential JPC project. You may find faculty who have already taught a course on or related to your JPC project topic.

  • Some administrative offices around Grounds work in community engagement and community relations and they can consult with you on potential contacts and directions for your project.

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Take Relevant COURSES

  • Enroll in courses that will help you develop the research skills and knowledge base needed to address the social issue.Academic Community Engagement courses are designed specifically to encourage student learning and foster innovative academically-based public service. JPC also supports several Common Courses that incorporate public service into the course theme. You can find a list of these courses at: http://www.virginia.edu/jpc/courses.html.

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Attend JPC WORKSHOPS

  • Begin work on your project proposal. This step is the culmination of your experiences in steps one through five. It includes writing up a project narrative, developing a project budget, and identifying team members. You will need to consult your faculty advisor and your community partner frequently during this process and apply the knowledge that you have gained through your coursework and previous community engagement experiences.

  • You should also consider attending the information sessions and workshops listed on the JPC website

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